Sports in reel life: Documentaries to watch on Netflix

Delfin Dioquino
Sports in reel life: Documentaries to watch on Netflix
Watch the stories behind an NFL star turned convict, what led to the ban of an Olympic powerhouse, the 1990s Bulls, and athletes who found triumph in losing

MANILA, Philippines – Athletes and sports personalities are also normal people. Beyond fame and prestige, they deal with real-life issues such as mental health, injustice, and severed relationships, among others, just like the rest of us. 

Sometimes, their lives outside their respective sports are far more riveting than that of their sporting careers. 

Here are some sports documentaries to binge-watch on Netflix:

Icarus (2017) 

Bryan Fogel initially set out to prove the doping system is broken by using performance-enhacing substances for a cycling race, but what he ends up discovering is the “single biggest conspiracy and scandal in sport history.”

The Academy Award Best Documentary Feature follows Fogel and scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, who gives a tell-all about how Russia conducted state-sponsored doping for its athletes in the Olympics.

Following further investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Russia was suspended from competing in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and was banned from participating in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics. 

Q Ball (2019)

Basketball is a refuge for members of the San Quentin Warriors, the premier team of the San Quentin State Prison.

Inmates tell their stories of how they landed in prison and how they are using basketball as a way to redeem themselves as they compete against free men – including members of the Golden State Warriors – throughout a season. 

The documentary also touches on the lives of the inmates’ families and their victims. 

Long Shot (2017)

Juan Catalan finds himself in jail after being arrested for a murder he claims he did not commit, and he and his lawyer need to prove he was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game during the time of the crime. 

When all hope seemed lost, Catalan gets unexpected help from acclaimed Seinfield creator Larry David, who happens to be shooting an episode for Curb Your Enthusiasm during the same Dodgers game. 

Although half as long as full-length documentaries, Long Shot showcases a gripping tale about wrongful convictions, police misconduct, and happenstance. 

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (2020)

Aaron Hernandez had the world in the palm of his hands – he had just helped the New England Patriots reign supreme in the 2012 Super Bowl and signed a multimillion contract as a rising NFL star. 

Outside football, though, Hernandez was a different beast. 

The three-part documentary revolves around Hernandez and his murder of fellow football player Odin Lloyd, his rough childhood, his other crimes, his sexuality, and his subsequent suicide in prison. 

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head trauma that is linked to the suicides of former NFL players Terry Long and Andre Waters, is also highlighted in the documentary.

The Last Dance (2020)

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls ruled the NBA in the 1990s as they won a total of 6 championships – including two three-peats – in a dominant run that ranks up there with the greatest in the history of the league. 

However, there are still plenty to be revealed about Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, head coach Phil Jackson, the rest of their supporting cast, and how they built an NBA dynasty. 

Two decades later, ESPN will release a 10-part documentary on the Bulls’ 1997-98 season and it will stream on Netflix starting April 20. 

Losers (2019)

There is triumph in losing.

Sports personalities in this eight-part miniseries narrate how they dealt with failure to emerge as winners in their own right in the end. 

Among the athletes featured are French figure skater Surya Bonali, who had adamantly performed the backflip in tournaments despite it being banned; British boxer Michael Bennett, who turned to acting after losing his heavyweight world title; and Italian runner Mauro Prosperi, who got lost in the desert while competing in the Marathon des Sables. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.


Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.